There are just two letters left in Kerrie’s Crime Fiction Alphabet series. This week it is the letter Y and I’ve chosen Dead in the Morning which was first published in 1970 and is the first of Margaret Yorke’s Patrick Grant mysteries.
Set in Fennersham, an English village this is about a family dominated by old Mrs Ludlow. When Mrs Mackenzie, the housekeeper is found dead it seems that she was killed by mistake and the intended victim was in fact Mrs Ludlow.
Dr Patrick Grant, Fellow and Dean of St Mark’s College Oxford and lecturer in English is staying in the same village with his sister Jane. Patrick is writing a book about unsolved mysteries from the past and as his sister says he
… is the most inquistive man ever to be born. … He looks for mysteries where there are none and is always poking his nose into other people’s business. (page 42)
He knows Timothy Ludlow, Mrs Ludlow’s grandson, who is a student at St Mark’s, so when he sees Phyllis Medhurst, Mrs Ludlow’s daughter in the chemist collecting her mother’s medicine his interest in the family is aroused. Jane tells him that Mrs Ludlow is a
… regular tartar, from all accounts. … She’s paralysed, or something, spends her days in a wheel chair and leads them all the devil of a dance, according to gossip. (pages 26-7)
The rest of the family comprise Cathy, Mrs Ludlow’s granddaughter, Gerald, Cathy’s father and his new wife Helen (Cathy’s mother died ten years earlier when Cathy was 8), and his brother Derek, his wife Betty and two sons, Timothy and Martin.
Mrs Ludlow, tired after the family get together to meet Helen, has her meal in bed, chicken fricassee and lemon meringue pie, but doesn’t eat the pie. The next morning Mrs Mackenzie is found dead in her room and the coroner’s verdict is that she died as a result of eating the portion of lemon meringue pie that Mrs Ludlow had left. It had been laced with barbiturates.
Cathy and Jane are friends and so Patrick manages to work his way into the family and discovers all sorts of family secrets. He thinks it is a question of character and wonders whether it is a crime of passion or of greed.
There are plenty of red herrings along the way but I’d worked it out before the end, which is predictable. Nevertheless I wanted to read on to find out the why rather than the who and that wasn’t so predicitable. All in all, an enjoyable book.